When life ends, where do you begin? Navigating life after loss


By definition loss refers to “the feeling of grief after losing someone or something of value”. The term “value” within this phrase is highly complex. It is hard to define or even put into words the “value” people can bring into our lives; but grief is a funny thing and in some circumstances people can feel a profound sense of loss despite that person having very little “value” in one’s life.

Losing a loved one is a unique experience that we are all united by. It can often be very overwhelming both emotionally and physically. Whether it’s the death of a family member, friend, or furry companion, the journey through grief can feel like navigating an uncharted sea, with all consuming waves of sadness, anger, and confusion.

The journey of grief is not linear, and everyone experiences grief differently. However, we are all united by the fact that, in essence, grief is the price we pay for love; and an incredible quote from Winnie The Pooh summarises this – “how lucky are we to have someone it is so hard to say goodbye to”.

This guide is here to serve as a comfort in perhaps some of the darkest days, exploring the challenges of life after loss, offering insights, perhaps some coping mechanisms, and support to those who are navigating the complex terrain of grief. This post also serves to remind you, that you are ‘normal’ whatever that means, and that each and every emotion you feel is valid.


Embracing the grieving process

Grief is a natural and unavoidable response to loss, and it manifests differently for each individual. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and it’s essential to give ourselves permission to experience the full range of emotions that can accompany loss.

Typically we hear of the tragic passing of a loved one, but no one discusses the grief process of the loss of perhaps an absent parent, or estranged family member. From shock and disbelief to sadness and anger, every emotion is valid and worthy of acknowledgment.

Regardless of the relationship, whether it be a relationship full of love or perhaps one more difficult, by allowing ourselves to lean into the grieving process rather than resist it, we can gradually begin to make sense of our feelings and move through them with a greater sense of ease.


Being kind to yourself

During times of grief, it is easy to criticise yourself and fall into unhealthy habits and feelings of inadequacy. During the grieving journey sometimes simple jobs such as cooking, cleaning, or showering can feel difficult.

Whilst the everyday mundane tasks are important, it is also vital to give yourself the same kindness and understanding that you would extend to a friend in a similar situation. This means allowing ourselves to rest when we are tired, to seek support when we are struggling, and to recognise that healing is a gradual process that won’t happen overnight.


Finding support networks and seeking help if needed

Losing a loved one can feel incredibly isolating, but it is important to remember that we are not alone. Grief is an inevitable feeling that we will all experience in some way during our lifetime.

Finding support networks, whether that is through friends, family members, support groups, or grief counselors, can provide invaluable comfort and companionship along the journey. A problem shared, is often a problem halved; and its important to not sit and suffer in silence.

Sharing our stories, experiences, and emotions with others who understand can help us to feel seen and validated in our grief, sparking a sense of connection and belonging even in the midst of your darkest days.


Remembering your loved ones and sharing memories

Often during a time of grief friends and family supporting you can be quick to hush the mentioning of lost loved ones, in a last ditch attempt to take your mind off things. Whilst it is important to do things you enjoy, it is also important not to feel like you must restrain from talking about your loss. In fact, one of the most powerful ways to navigate life after a death is to honour the memories and legacies of our loved ones.

It is vital not to avoid your feelings, and to create rituals and traditions to commemorate special occasions. This can help to make a time to share stories and anecdotes about the deceased which keeps people’s memories alive in our hearts and minds; thus eventually bringing comfort and solace in knowing that their presence continues to shape and enrich our lives long after they are gone.


Finding a purpose after loss

During the grief journey, many of us can find ourselves struggling with the profound existential questions about the meaning and purpose of life. Death can really change people’s perceptions about the fragility of life, and of how precious time is. While these questions may not have easy answers, they can prompt us to explore deeper aspects of ourselves and our beliefs.

Spending time doing activities that bring us joy and happiness, pursuing passions or interests that we’ve long neglected, or finding ways to give back to others can all help us find meaning in life in the midst of grief. Loss often triggers a sense of a change in perspective and purpose; and it’s important to lean into these feelings as it could lead to greater sense of fulfillment, long term.


Don’t just survive, thrive!

Life after loss is incredibly confusing and its natural to feel a sense of guilt; but it’s important to embrace resilience and growth despite the pain and heartache of grief.

As we navigate the ups and downs of loss, we can develop coping skills, cultivate inner resources, and learn to adapt to life’s challenges with greater ease. Often out of great hardship, opportunity is born. Many people may even find that their experiences of loss lead to a drastic career change or a new sense of life. Grief is profound and in some ways forces people to reflect and develop new positive habits which can lead to personal growth, wisdom, and resilience.


So what can we take away from this?

Life after loss is a journey with great challenges, but it’s also a journey filled with opportunities for healing, growth, and opportunity. As people we are all united by life and by death; grief is a part of that journey. By embracing the grieving process, practicing self-care, seeking support networks, remembering and honouring loved ones, finding meaning and purpose, as well as embracing what’s next we can navigate the complexities of loss with greater support and resilience.

Whilst no one can take away the pain of loss, it’s important to remember that you are not alone, and in fact it reminds us of how precious the gift of life is. Out of dark times comes a path of healing, hope, and new opportunity.

If you’re struggling with feelings of grief and loneliness following a loss, or feel that you’d benefit from speaking with a bereavement volunteer, Cruse Bereavement Support run a free telephone helpline for you to call.

You can reach them on 0808 808 1677, or you can find out more about their support services online at cruse.org.uk.